An illustration of a smart phone with social media icons popping out of the screen.If you’ve ever heard a teenager say, “Ugh, Facebook is for old people,” you already know that social media preference has an age component. But if you look at the data, you’ll see that social media use isn’t as simple as “old people use this, young people use that.”

Most Americans Use Social Media
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, nearly 70% of Americans use some form of social media.1 In other words, social media is in common use across age groups.

Younger Age Groups Are Becoming Less Dominant Within Social Media
At the advent of social media, Pew routinely found that younger Americans (ages 18–29) were significantly more likely to use social media. Now, Pew’s data shows the gap has significantly narrowed. Nearly 80% of 30- to 49-year-olds and nearly 65% of 50- to 64-year-olds also use social media, as compared to 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds. And while only 37% of those ages 65 and older use social media, their numbers are growing.

The Changing Facebook Market
According to Pew, Facebook is the most used social media platform, regardless of age. However, that doesn’t tell the whole social media story.

While 81% of 18- to 29-year-olds use Facebook, that age group also uses many other social media platforms. And they use them at rates far exceeding the use rates of other age groups. For instance, 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds use Instagram and 40% use Twitter. Among older age groups, none comes close to breaking 50% for Instagram use or 30% for Twitter use.

In addition, there is evidence that Facebook is losing ground among younger Americans even as it gains popularity with older Americans. A recent Gallup survey found Facebook use among 18- to 29-year-olds has dropped 2% since 2011 while increasing 8% among 30- to 49-year-olds, 18% among 50- to 64-year-olds, and 14% among those over 65.2

Technology, Like Social Media, Is Here to Stay
Regardless of age, one thing is for certain: Social media has changed the way we think about information technology. Technology that was once confined to large glass rooms now fits in the palm of our hand. It’s portable, it’s instant, and it’s constantly getting smarter. With so many people using social media across age groups, it’s unlikely that it is going anywhere.

But as recent data shows, social media preferences aren’t uniform and could continue to diversify in the coming years. This will inevitably create new challenges and opportunities for information technology enterprises, social media companies, and the businesses that use both for promotion and advertising.

If you want to seize opportunities as they arise, Walden University offers several degree paths that can help you gain the knowledge and skills you’ll need. On the technology side, a Master of Information Systems Management (MISM) can give you business-infused tech know-how. On the business side, an MS in Marketing can prepare you to leverage the power of social media for marketing purposes, while a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can give you the strategic skills you’ll need to help manage a social media company or a company with a serious social media presence.


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